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Here be dragons: Why SA companies fail offshore

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Here be dragons” is a warning found on ancient maps demonstrating the dangers awaiting voyagers who dared venture beyond the limits of the known world. Today there are a number of South African companies that can attest to the perils awaiting those that venture beyond our borders into unknown territories.

Woolworths, Brait, Standard Bank, Old Mutual, Sasol, Shoprite Checkers, Famous Brands, Life Healthcare, Netcare, Ascendis, Truworths, the list goes on. Some estimates suggest that a total of R300bn of shareholder value has been lost in failed offshore ventures in recent years.

Why has the much-vaunted corporate SA fared so badly in their offshore forays? The reasons are probably as diverse as the companies that ventured offshore. But if history has taught us anything, it is that it tends to repeat itself.

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